Cliopatria: A Group Blog
Aaron Bady (∞); Chris Bray (∞); Brett Holman (∞); Jonathan Jarrett (∞); Robert KC Johnson (∞); Rachel Leow (∞); Ralph E. Luker (∞); Scott McLemee (∞); Claire B. Potter (∞); Jonathan T. Reynolds (∞)
This is the latest landmark in what is pretty clearly becoming an arms race in outer space. While technically no weapons have been based there (as far as we know), the Chinese test blurs the line badly between space-based weapons and space capable weapons. As this summary reminds us, the Bush Administration has played a part in this escalation, too. It has established a new policy that is strikingly unilateral. (By the way, to some extent this shift in policy began under Clinton.)
One comment in the first Post article suggests that this was a message to Bush that the Chinese could compete vigorously if pushed. If so, it might indicate their willingness to negotiate a new space weapons treaty. But the Bush Administration will certainly use this Chinese demonstration to advance their clear agenda to develop space-based weapons. In fact, I can’t think of an action more likely to get Congress to fund and approve an expansion in space weapons, even at the cost of violating current treaties.
You may think that I oppose such an escalation. I do oppose basing weapons in space, but life is not that simple. Now that the Chinese have this capability, they are far less likely to give it up easily. An escalation in America’s capability to deploy such weapons may now be essential to negotiate improved treaties banning them and in getting the Senate to approve such a treaty. I don’t think that’s a Bush administration goal, but that action might make it easier for its successor to move in that direction.
Davenport's speculation seems no more unlikely, however, than Dumneazu's argument for the Appalachian roots of the Klezmer revival. Joel at Far Outliers and Nathanael at Rhine River put me on to this unlikely connection. And, if you don't check out some of Dumneazu's links, you're missin' the good stuff, like the string band, Da Costa Woltz's Southern Broadcasters. When I could talk him into it, my Confederate grandaddy used to sing"Old Joe Clark" and"Are You Washed in the Blood" was evangelical comfort food. If Nathanael will bring his mandolin to the next AHA convention, I'll dust off my cloggin' shoes and we'll put a whoop and a holler into the conventional mix.
Seated in front: Rob MacDougall, Tim Burke, Civil War Memory's Kevin Levin, and Rebecca Goetz.
Standing behind them: Frog in a Well's Jonathan Dresner and Ralph Luker.
Hieronomo at Blogging the Renaissance wonders how Civil Warriors could have won a Cliopatria Award for Best Group Blog if they can't even get the Civil War in the right century. Hey, they've probably even got it on the wrong land mass! Anyway, there's still time to enter BtR's Woodcut Caption Contest 6.
We are only now learning the depths of the Suez Crisis of 1956. News that France and Great Britain actually discussed the possibility of a merger in September of that year caught everyone by surprise and unseated historians on both sides of the Channel. The BBC reports that"Henri Soutou, professor of contemporary history at Paris's Sorbonne University, almost fell off his chair.""I completely fell off my seat," said Richard Vinen, a French historian at King's College in London."It's such a bizarre thing to propose." Thanks to Sharon Howard at Early Modern Notes for the tip.
Alex Lichtenstein,"Recounting Little Rock via History and Memory," Chicago Tribune, 14 January, reviews Elizabeth Jacoway's Turn Away Thy Son: Little Rock, the Crisis That Shocked the Nation. Whenever I see her at the SHA convention, Betsy reminds me that I gave her a very hard time in graduate school. I like to think that, with this book, she's given me her answer. It is, by any measure, a major contribution to the history of the South and the civil rights movement. Thanks to Alfredo Perez at Political Theory Daily Review for the tips.
The one to start serious historians jawing is this one, noting an inverse relationship between family size and the longevity of parents. It sounds fascinating. However, it raises in my mind an immediate question: could it not be true that parents who anticipate a shorter life span choose to have more children?
On the security front is this NY Times op-ed by Kathryn Harrison on how she inadvertently breached all manner of airport security. The whole article is worth it, but here is her husband’s summary of her adventure:
Let me get this straight, he says. Unauthorized, you open the gate door to the airplane. You set off a very loud security alarm. You wait a few minutes, and then take it upon yourself to enter the empty aircraft. You spend some time moving around its interior. No one sees you there. You leave of your own accord. You exit the way you came and you stop the alarm from ringing. And you confessed this, chapter and verse, to airline personnel and nothing happened?
I'm actually glad that she did not get arrested, but doessn't this make homeland security seem better than ever?
I suppose this last article might be under the subject heading “New ways to teach the history of events.” Or perhaps the heading “Porn for Kids.” Either way, it’s a review of a video game based on the Columbine shootings.
Yes, that line of epithets in your head matched my own first thoughts, but read on. Whether you agree or disagree with the reviewer (who, after all, might well be looking at the game with greater subtlety than the average 15 year old), he provides food for thought. Maybe this game is more ethical than it sounds.
My thought? More and more I am convinced that historians need to grapple with video games as a medium for the craft. Military people have been there for a while—or at least I assume that. But the rest of us need to be considering it, even for topics that do not involve weapons.
My family and I had a wonderful visit this past weekend with history department and other friends at UNC, Chapel Hill. As I said on Friday, we had to return to Atlanta for a Sunday evening interview with ABC Nightline's Vicki Mabry about the new exhibit of the Martin Luther King Papers at the Atlanta History Center. The interview should air tonight. Just between you and me, however, the funniest part of the interview probably won't be aired. The producer wanted a shot of me sitting at my computer and then getting up to consult a book from my bookshelves. So, we do that and so far, so good. But, then, I pull the book from the shelf – and with it comes out the longest, most elaborate, cobweb you have ever seen in your life. The damned thing hovered momentarily in the air – as networks of accumulated dust will do – and, then, it settled down over and around my head and white sweater. So much for"immaculate house"! There was no ignoring it; there was no disguising it. We all burst into laughter at my predicament. This is a working office, I told them. I can't be bothered with dusting it occasionally!
How did this happen again? After all, we're Americans -- practical, common-sense people who know how to get things done. Or so we'd like to think. In truth, we are ethnocentric to a fault, certain of our own superiority, convinced that others see us as we do, blithely indifferent to cultural, religious, political and historical realities far different from our own. These failings -- more than any tactical or strategic errors -- help explain the U.S. catastrophes in Vietnam and Iraq.
But, after all that, guess what he concludes? American intervention in nations around the globe should have more modest aims - politically and militarily. Also, be certain you really understand the society you propose to transform.
Speaking of disappearing, the historic Fort Pitt is being buried under a Mall or maybe a parking lot. Either way, don't despair, as the historian quoted in the article is particularly cheerful:"Muller said there are many examples of historically significant things being buried and later unearthed. For example, in the 1980s, archaeologists working on a highway project in Pittsburgh unearthed perfectly preserved wooden doors that had been buried when a canal was filled in to make room for the railroads more than 100 years earlier, he said." See? We can dig those parking lots up later to find signs of the French retreat.
And if we do end up with a mall, there will be tours.
Gandhi Ji is having a renaissance in India - due, in large part to a hit bollywood movie. I realize that this sentence should properly be explained by a 3,000 word post, and maybe it will be on Monday. In the meantime, you can read Khuswant Singh's review of a new book on Gandhi Ji - by his grandson: Mohandas: A True Story of a Man, His People and an Empire.
Biography seems perfectly fine on the Amazon/NYT charts but I don't see many dissertations in the UMI during the last five years that look biograph-ish. My own, dissertation, i.e., is a historiobiography. w00t.
At the Future of the Book, there is the commenting on the President's Iraq Speech [btw, can someone find out how many total Iraq speeches have been give so far by President Bush?]. NYT totally copied the FotB folks in their own line-by-line analysis. I wish to draw your attention to the way these two sites spliced the text to allow commenting. Digitally minded academics have much to adapt from both of these technical presentations.
Speaking of digital historians, the finest blog has a great reading list for a Digital History field. Someone give this man an award - oh wait, we just gave him a Clio!
Elizabeth brings to our attention the Academic Freedom and Professional Responsibility after 9/11: A Handbook for Scholars and Teachers by the Middle East Anthropologists. Among endorsers of the report are historians Marc (sic) LeVine (UC Irvine) and Rashid Khalidi (Columbia). As Elizabeth notes, it is largely commonsensical [that word] and"useful as a reminder".
Question: Is Biography back?
The new Common-Place is up -- with lots of good things!
On Wednesday, the National Archives and Footnote.com jointly announced an agreement to digitize documents in the National Archives. Some 4.5 million documents, including the Papers of the Continental Congress (1774-89), the Mathew B. Brady Collection of Civil War Photographs, records of the Southern Claims Commission, the Name Index to Civil War and Later Pension Files, and the Investigative Case Files of the Bureau of Investigation (1908-22), are now online and searchable at footnote.com. For more information, see: Miland Brown's World History Blog.
I'll be away from Cliopatria for the weekend to attend a memorial service for George B. Tindall in Chapel Hill on Saturday. But I'll be back in Atlanta for an interview for ABC's Nightline on Sunday evening. We'll talk about the new exhibit of the Martin Luther King Papers at the Atlanta History Center. In the meantime, however, my colleagues at Cliopatria will keep you informed and provoked.
For Hegel, the significance of such figures is not strictly a function of what they intend to do. Their intentions, their passions, even their human failings can prove to be indirect instruments of forces or tendencies in the historical process that they never fully understand.
Might GWB be playing a world-historical role even if his stated plans turn out to be as disasterous as they've been so far? Could his actual significance in the grand scheme of things be as catalyst for the complete destruction of U.S. power in the region?
I don't know. I'm just asking. (I don't endorse teleological thinking, in case you were wondering.) But a recent article in Foreign Affairs seems to suggest that is exactly what is happening.
"Matthew Jones at Yahoo News introduces ancestorsonboard.com, a project of the Great Britain's National Archives. It digitizes and makes searchable the manifests of all outward bound passenger ships leaving the British Islands between 1890 and 1960. It could be invaluable to researchers in family history. Thanks to Dale Light of Light Seeking Light for the tip.
Thanks to Robert Townsend at AHA Today, you can compare the original and the amended texts of the AHA's resolution against"free speech zones" and its resolution against the war in Iraq. The latter resolution will be submitted to the AHA membership for ratification. Without a majority of votes in that plebiscite, it will not be considered an official statement of the AHA. Similarly, at AHA Today, Elizabeth Grant posts the text of a letter from Barbara Weinstein, Linda Kerber, and Arnita Jones to Atlanta's Mayor Shirley Franklin to protest the arrest and incarceration of Felipe Fernández-Armesto. The matter is under local investigation.
My friend, Dimitri Rotov at Civil War Bookshelf [scroll down; his permalinks aren't working.], apparently believes that I was too dismissive of claims made about quilt/codes in Hidden in Plain View. Dimitri should consult the discussions I referenced on H-Slavery (though there have been earlier ones, the most recent begins here) and apparently thinks I've made up my mind before all the evidence is in. Well, yes, I'm doubtful that George Washington was a transvestite in private moments, but I'm willing to look at your evidence of it.
Finally, Ed Darrell at Millard Fillmore's Bathtub wants to know how many states have pledges of allegiance to the state flag. Texas law requires public school students to repeat pledges to the United States' and the state flag every school day. So far, Ed's got the text for pledges in Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Ohio, South Dakota, and Texas. Alabama's another one, Ed:"Flag of Alabama I salute thee. To thee I pledge my allegiance, my service, and my life." And then I wash my mouth out with soap.
Which also reminded me that sometimes in July, 2006, I had decided to annotate and translate Common Sense into Urdu. I admit that the only progress I made on this so far is to get the title translated - trust me, it was far harder than you'd imagine. I also read through Paine's Rights of Man and The Age of Reason.
I honestly don't know if I can do this judiciously - or at all. But, with 2008 being the year when Pakistan's resident dictator decides, again, to suspend democracy and freedom - with the help of the White House - I think it will be my fruitless gesture.
It's been a hard couple of years; so many renowned feminists have died in the past 24 months: Dworkin, Butler, Friedan; most, like Fox-Genovese, died far too young. Of course, the feminist blogosphere has devoted rather less attention to the passing of the last of these. We are always hardest on former allies who apostasize, after all, whether that apostasy leads them to the left or, as in Fox-Genovese's case, over to the Catholic Right.
Like Frederica Mathews-Green, Fox-Genovese began her career as a secular feminist. Her work on slave and white women in the antebellum south was universally praised. Perhaps more importantly, she helped establish one of America's very first doctoral programs in Women's Studies at Emory University, where she remained as professor until her death.
In later years, however, she and her husband became serious, conservative Catholics. She became, like Christina Hoff Summers, a very public anti-feminist, rejecting her old positions and celebrating a radically different world view, grounded in her own sincere conversion.
Her passing was marked by the right; read this touching memorial from Robert George at National Review.
Apostasy is a funny thing, especially for those of us who make our living in the world of ideas, religion, or politics. The history of the academy is littered with examples of men and women who achieved a sterling reputation linked to one set of ideological principles which they later repudiated. Some move from left to right (think of the David Horowitzes of the world); others move from right to left (think of Barry Goldwater, or the"evolution" of certain Supreme Court justices.) This evolution or apostasy is usually accompanied by shrill cries of disappointment and betrayal by those who feel abandoned, and an effusive welcome from the former enemies whom one has now joined. Friendships are often severed in the process, though in Fox-Genovese's case, that seems to have happily not been true.
All sides in an ideological battle like to welcome adult converts. Both left and right, feminists and anti-feminists, tend to flatter themselves with the notion that wisdom and maturity will invariably lead discerning folks to their particular position. It's immensely satisfying to construct a narrative of personal growth that suggests that one could be one thing when one was young and coltish, but become something else once one"really understood how the world works." Those who join our battle late in life, particularly when they have switched sides after a period of reflection, are often more celebrated than the" cradle believers." Ideologues on left and right love the idea that someone has"tried out the other side" and"evolved" to seeing things our way.
Some of us demonize our ideological opponents, but most of us tend to think of them as well-intentioned and misinformed rather than genuinely malicious."If only they really understood as we understand", we say to ourselves,"they'd come round." When on occasion they do, abandoning their old beliefs for new ones, we rejoice. In the same way, when a former ally leaves us for"the dark side" (be it traditional Catholicism or secular feminism), we lament their"fall". We assume that they were"tempted", or underwent some sort of psychic trauma from which they couldn't recover. We tend to pathologize apostasy when it takes a colleague in the struggle away from us, because most of us can't accept a legitimate intellectual or spiritual reason why a fellow soldier in the culture war would switch sides.
Elizabeth Fox-Genovese was an important American historian, and an important figure in the Women's Studies movement. That in her later years she turned her back on many of her earlier positions is not evidence that those positions were flawed, immature or inadequate. But by the same token, her transformation into a Catholic traditionalist doesn't vitiate the importance of her earlier work, and it doesn't diminish the obligation of those of us who share the commitments she abandoned to thank her for her service and to celebrate her life.
Christopher Hitchens,"Jefferson's Quran," Slate, 9 January, is Hitchens at his worst. Citing causes of the friction between the United States and the North African Barbary states in the late 18th century, Hitch never recalls that enslavement was considered a right of war between Christian Europe and the Muslim world for centuries. Hanson ‘n Hitchens constantly remind us how many Christians were enslaved by Muslims and ignore how many Muslims were enslaved by the Christians. Sylviane Diouf estimates that 2 to 4 million of them were captives in the Atlantic slave trade, from which, of course, Jefferson directly benefitted. And don't even get me started about the idiocy of using razor blades on historic texts.
Chris Bray,"Unforgetting the Republic," Historiblogography, 9 January, looks back to the Newburgh Conspiracy for precedent establishing congressional authority for the disposition of American troops.
The controversy within SMU's faculty is heating up over plans to locate a George W. Bush Library adjacent to the university. See: Inside Higher Ed and New York Times. Scott McLemee, however, asks whether George might be Hegel's world historic man, in which case, faculty skeptics would be mere nitpickers.
Finally, in time for mid-January's celebration of Martin Luther King's birthday, the University of California announces publication of Volume VI of The Papers of Martin Luther King. The volume reproduces documents that the King family withheld from any public examination for nearly 30 years after ML's death.
So I was thinking while daydreaming through a number of presentations on slavery and colonialism about something an undergraduate professor of mine used to say to those of us who were in the anti-apartheid movement at my campus. Largely just to tweak us, he'd ask when he could expect our protests against the Arab conquest of North Africa and the Mongol invasions of Asia and Eastern Europe.
The older I get, the more I think this jibe poses a genuinely interesting question.
I don't think it's mere hypocrisy that most of us tend to adopt a moral posture with varying degrees of explicitness around histories that are strongly connected to the post-1500 expansion of Western Europe. There are serious analytical reasons to regard the modern era as something non-comparable to what came before it, in moral as well as economic, political and cultural terms. There are serious reasons to see big moral as well as substantive differences between something like Atlantic slavery after 1600 and slavery in African societies before that time.
But at the same time, I'm not always clear that the common moral complaints against European colonialism, especially the ones made more or less in passing, through strong adjectives or implicit postures, have that degree of specificity. I heard a number of speakers, for example, admonish their listeners to recall the loss of life or the physical suffering that resulted from imperialism. That makes sense as a complaint from the recent past against the distant past in general, but I'm not sure it distinguishes the behavior of the Spanish in the New World from the behavior of the Mongols in Samarkand.
Moreover, in the last two decades, historians have done a markedly good job of showing how some of the roots of global modernity lie in structures of early modern and late medieval global exchange. In fact, we've come to understand the role of the Mongols in particular as preparatory or contributory, though as much through the accidental dissemination of bubonic plague as by the direct creation of persistent political or economic practices. If you follow the recent arguments of some theorists of global history like Andre Gunder Frank, you might even come to see the rise of the West as nothing more than a short-term perturbation of a 5,000 year old world-system.
I'm ok with a general sense that the present is morally superior to much of the past, but I increasingly feel that there is an odd rhetorical boundary implied by many conventional statements of this superiority, as if before 1500, it no longer clearly applies. As I said, this isn't much more than an idle thought that comes from the rhetorical trimmings that surround many historical arguments. When you get down to the substantive heart of such arguments, they're often much more careful and precise.
Surely-They-Didn't-Steal-The-Whole-Thing Department: FIRE's Speech Code of the Month features the Code of Student Conduct at North Carolina's Fayetteville State University. Among other things, it enjoins students against cheating and plagiarism. Unfortunately, the Code, itself, repeats verbatim and without attribution, at least a part of the University of Michigan code that was found unconstitutional by a federal court in Doe v University of Michigan in 1989.
Movin'-On-Up Department: The New York Times reports that Drew Gilpin Faust, the dean of Radcliffe Institute, is among the women who may be under consideration for president at Harvard. Thanks to Caleb McDaniel for the tip. Further south, Edward L. Ayers, dean of arts & sciences at the University of Virginia, has been named the new president of the University of Richmond.
Let's-Get-Real Department: Whereas, the University of Alabama blah-blah-blah; Resolved, that it should come out of its University-closet and declare itself simply a football team.
More details here.
If you don't know what Open Access is about yet, here are good places to start:
Open Access Overview
Open Access News, Peter Suber's blog.
• excluding well-recognized foreign scholars;
• condemning as “revisionism” the search for truth about pre-war intelligence;
• re-classifying previously unclassified government documents; • suspending in certain cases the centuries-old writ of habeas corpus and substituting indefinite administrative detention without specified criminal charges or access to a court of law;
• using interrogation techniques at Guantanamo, Abu-Ghraib, Bagram, and other locations incompatible with respect for the dignity of all persons required by a civilized society;
Is that true? Are these things inextricably linked to this war or could a different administration have waged a similar war without them?
Yes, I know that this is an anti-war resolution in intent that’s been shaped to get support. Still, for it to be adopted by the membership of a scholarly organization, it ought to be logical at face value. Is it?